Ex-PAP Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Calvin Cheng on Tuesday (July 25) called for the Singapore government to stop all government funding and support for Singapore art. The former PAP member said that art could be “garbage” and defended the government when Singaporeans criticised the National Art Council (NAC).
The NAC withdrew funding for artist Sonny Liew’s comic book, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, when the book negatively depicted the ruling party government as a dictatorship restricting individual freedom and instilling fear in Singaporeans. Sonny Liew’s book eventually won three awards at the prestigious Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards last Friday (July 21). The NAC then posted a Facebook post congratulating Sonny Liew but it was slammed by Singaporeans for being a hypocrite.
Ex-PAP NMP Calvin Cheng defended the government agency saying that art is subjective and proposed to terminate funding and support for all Singapore art:
“The principle is that the Government should not be using taxpayers’ money to fund what is essentially a subjective exercise – one person’s art is another person’s garbage…The problem is once the Government is asked to do this, it is going to be in an impossible situation sometimes, especially if the subject is controversial. If it decides not to fund a project, or worse still withdraw a grant (Singapore isn’t the only country who does this) , it will be accused of censorship and get criticised. If it goes ahead and funds it, other groups and taxpayers will get their knickers in a twist, and lampoon the Government regardless. This is what is happening to our National Arts Council and Sonny Liew’s The Art of Charlie Chan; they are caught between a rock and a hard place. His subject matter is controversial, regardless of his skill. I think it is better that the Government stays out of making decisions on what art to fund – essentially, I am arguing that taxpayers money should not be used to fund art.”
Singapore artists have come out slamming Calvin Cheng for his insidious intent. A tattoo artist wrote on his Facebook page disagreeing with Calvin Cheng and was banned by the ex-PAP NMP:
“Yesterday I was linked an article by Anthea Tan in which a fool I’d never heard of before was talking about why the government should stop funding the arts. I responded to him, but due to the fact that my opinion differed from his, he deleted all my comments as well as banned me from his page. The reason that I’m posting this in the first place is because I honestly want to know how someone like this could ever even have been nominated as an MP for our country.”